TREASURE ISLAND — The city may reimburse residents for part of the $100 they must now pay to use the Gulf Beaches Library in Madeira Beach.
Commissioner Phil Collins proposed Tuesday that the city dip into its reserves to pay half the fee for the first 1,146 families that purchase library cards at the Madeira Beach library.
"I have come up with what I think is a doable compromise," Collins told the commission. "It will cost the city a little bit of money, but would enable people who want to use the library to do so at a minimal cost."
Under his proposal, residents who pay the $100 fee for a library card would bring the card and a driver's license proving their city residency to City Hall for a $50 reimbursement.
If they purchase a library card at any other library, they would not be reimbursed, Collins said.
"This is a good compromise that I don't think will burden people too much and will enable people to go to the library if they want to," Collins said.
A majority of commissioners appeared to like the idea and they will take it up again at the Oct. 21 meeting.
Only Commissioner Allen Bildz expressed apprehension.
He said if the city were to reimburse part of the library fee, he would rather pay less to fewer people and allow them to purchase their library cards at any library.
"That defeats the purpose of what I am trying to accomplish," said Collins.
The 1,146 number is Collins' estimate of how many Treasure Island families are active library users. And if all of them purchase library cards the city's cost for reimbursing them would be $57,300.
At issue is the financial future of the Gulf Beaches Library.
Until this year, the 1950s-era institution has been largely funded by a consortium of five beach communities — Treasure Island, Madeira Beach, Redington Beach, North Redington Beach and Redington Shores.
Then Treasure Island, pleading budget problems, decided this summer to withdraw from the consortium.
For the city's residents, that means they can no longer use any Pinellas County library unless they pay the countywide fee of $100.
The new rule went into effect Oct. 1 and since then 34 residents, some of them upset, have purchased cards at the Madeira Beach library.
"We had some people who didn't know about Treasure Island's decision. Two older women on fixed income actually start crying because they couldn't afford the $100 fee," said Stanley Silverstein, the library's circulation manager.
Bob Clark, a former Treasure Island resident who now lives in Largo, sent a $100 check to the library.
"Please use these funds to pay for a membership for someone from Treasure Island who cannot afford to do so themselves," he said in an accompanying letter.
Clark said he hopes the "Cheapskate Treasure Island City Commission" is "publicly embarrassed" by its "lame decision."
Meanwhile, in addition to incurring the loss of Treasure Island's expected contribution of $107,000, the library is also short more than $20,000 it expected from the state.
It may find itself short another $5,000 if Madeira Beach city commissioners refuse to pay a portion of Treasure Island's share it paid in previous years to keep that city in the five-town consortium.
That possibility was discussed at a Madeira Beach commission workshop Tuesday. Since Treasure Island is no longer a library consortium member, a commission majority feels there is no reason to continue the extra payment.
The city also wants to call a joint meeting of the remaining four town commissions to discuss the library's future.